THIRD PLACE WINNER
WRITER ADVICE FLASH FICTION AWARD 2023
THE ROTTEN ROSE
Copyright©2023 by Sheryl J. Bize-Boutte
He bump-rolled into town in his greyscale Volkswagen bug on three good tires and an uncooperative spare. The flat tire that happened ten miles back on the desolate country road had made him anxious. The now familiar gut-wrenching urgency was beginning its slow creep and would soon take over, breaking him again.
Pulling into the dry dusty driveway of the Daily Night Inn, the rotten smell again filled his nostrils. It had come back to him several times as he drove from Nashville to this awful place in nowhere Texas, but no amount of searching the small car yielded any clues as to the where the now acrid odor was coming from, so he just drove on.
His destination was more important than that smell and besides, he would be rid of all that very soon. He had now arrived at the place where it would all end.
A lonely motel room. A lonely man. One shot that no one would hear.
No note. No explanation.
They would come in two days and find him only because he would not have paid for the extra night.
She was in this town so she would know soon what she had done to him. She would have to be the one to come and take care of him. He had no one else.
He was thinking about this and how she would feel when they told her. Would she be sad? Resigned? Relieved?
He was thinking about this when he banged his fist into the crumbling, fragile VW dashboard. The force of his blow caused part of the dash pad to fall away.
Right there, wedged between the broken needle gas gauge and the mileage spent odometer was the source of the smell. A dead and rotting rose, the stem still embedded in a tiny holder with just enough stagnant water to change conditions in this miniature space. She always had a rose on the dashboard in that finger sized vase. How it had gotten to this place, he did not know.
The last time he had seen that flower she had been driving and he was in the passenger seat. They were arguing about something stupid that he could no longer recall. It had not been that long ago, but he had stopped living within the measurements of time.
He picked the brown and rotting rose out of the maze of dust, hoses, numbers, and rusty wire connections to find a small sliver of paper attached.
I will always love you. No matter what. Love, Jenine
Rose in hand, the man made his way to the desk of the seedy motel and rang the bell for service.
A short, sweaty rotund man appeared and in an almost comical drawl asked,
“What can I do for you today, mister?”
If he noticed the rose, he made no mention of it.
“I’d like a room please,” the man said.
“For the night?” the clerk asked.
“For the week, please,” the man replied.
“My, I tell you that’s a surprise. We don’t get many around here who want to stay that long!” the clerk replied excitedly.
“Well,” the man said, “I am just having a feeling,”
The clerk narrowed his eyes as he turned register around for the man’s signature, “And what feeling would you be having if you don’t mind my askin?”
Through his shining and broad smile, the man said,
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